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Youth and faith in Slovakia. There is room for God in their lives, but no ties with the parish

Almost two thousand secondary school students have been interviewed on the relationship between daily life and religious adherence, on Mass attendance, the value of the family in their own faith experience. Religious reference is still widespread, but participation within the Christian community remains low

Can Slovakia be described as a Catholic country? How do young people live their faith? What is their attitude towards the Church, and towards priestly and religious vocations? The answers to these and many other questions can be found in the findings of an exclusive survey carried out by the Faculty of Theology of the University of Trnava, based on a random sample of 1,968 secondary school students. The purpose of the research was to identify the essential dimensions of the religiousness of young people and some other important aspects of their lifestyle. Students were interviewed on issues such as their relationship with religion, with the Christian community, clerical vocation, family relationships, the views towards premarital sexual relationships, leisure activities, the influence of the media and other questions.


The role of the family. The survey shows that many respondents ascribe importance to the religious aspects of their lives, and that

they are strongly influenced by the family environment that exposed them to the Catholic faith even during the hard days of Communism.

However, according to Jozef Matulnik, coordinator of the project, parents and children have had to face many challenges after the fall of totalitarianism: “We acknowledge the effort of the Church for the renewal and development of religious life and the rebirth of spiritual and moral values in society. On the other hand, several negative tendencies present within Western culture significantly affect our still young democracy. ” Cardinal Jozef Tomko mentioned the risk of a “new anthropology, a new understanding of man, of his nature, the family and society, sex and happiness, wealth and profit, causing dramatic changes in the scale of values.”


Numbers and percentages. Over 57% of respondents said they belong to the Catholic Church of Latin rite, 7.2% have declared their affiliation to the Evangelical Church, 6.3% to the Greek-catholic Church and over 25% said they belong to no religious denomination. A large number of young people attends Masses and liturgies once a week (33%), whereas the second-largest group of respondents said they go to church less than once a month (28%). 17% of young people said they monthly attend the sacrament of reconciliation. Moreover, the findings show that even those who don’t openly demonstrate their attachment to the Church cherish a strong inner experience of the faith. In fact, almost 60% of respondents said that “life would be meaningless without God.” The area that – according to the findings of the survey – should be further developed, coupled perhaps by stronger commitment on the part of Church institutions, is that of the Catholic community, notably the parish community.

In fact, over 57% of young people said they feel no bond with their parish community. This finding sheds light on another crucial question, namely, young people’s formation to priestly vocation and religious life.

For Ladislav Csontos, two aspects are critical to understanding the behaviour of contemporary youths, these are: “the need for subjectivity and the desire for freedom.” Young people in Slovakia are strongly influenced by the culture of consumerism and secularism, leading to disorientation in the value system. Traditional national culture disappears, replaced by European lifestyle. Many young men and women come from torn or incomplete families, and this – together with the lack of communication – causes “emotional fragility.” “But despite all these problems, young people are open to spiritual values if the latter are presented in accordance with the culture they are familiar with,” said Csontos, signalling the youth’s “loneliness in the search of their identity”, which often influences decisions regarding their future, including the vocation to the priesthood.

Differences in the rites. Almost 50% of respondents believe that this vocation is important for society. Nevertheless, only 2.8% of those surveyed said “yes” when asked a more personal and specific question on the possibility of taking into consideration priestly or religious vocation. A very interesting difference was registered in the answers of Catholics of Latin rite and Greek-Catholics. While a “yes” to the priesthood involved 2.4% of Latin Rite Catholics respondents, the percentage reached over 5% among the Greek-Catholics. For Csontos the explanation is clear.

He said that many Greek-Catholic parishes are run by young people who know how to motivate others. Moreover, Greek-Catholic communities are very small, which provides the opportunity of personal encounters with every faithful.

For Matulnik these findings “can help Church officials to reflect on the situation and decide which direction should be undertaken in the pastoral care of the next decades.”





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